Institute on East
[The Party] will fight for a free, autonomous, united Macedonia within the framework of the future European confederation, based on the ideals of Ilinden . . . [for] the spiritual, political and economic union of the . . . divided Macedonian people and state, within the framework of a future Balkan union and a united Europe.Though overshadowed by war in Croatia and Bosnia, the "revival" of nationalism in Macedonia has prompted concern among many analysts that an even worse conflict might be kindled there. 1 Among the sources of this concern are the emergence of a new IMRO (VMRO in Macedonian) 2 as a leading political party in Macedonia, rising tensions between the Macedonian majority and ethnic minorities (particularly Albanians), and the openly irredentist rhetoric of many politicians -- both within and without the republic. 3 A recurring feature in these nationalist contexts is an appeal to "the ideals of Ilinden," referring to a IMRO-led uprising against Turkish rule in the early part of this century. IMRO-DPMNU invokes Ilinden in its charter.4 Two parties of ethnic Macedonians in Bulgaria have been named after this uprising. 5 The Macedonian constitution states that its legitimacy rests "upon the statehood-legal traditions of the Kru?evo Republic," a short-lived experiment in autonomous rule which comprised the high water mark of the Uprising.6 The list goes on.
-- Extract from the IMRO Charter
June 17, 1990
This essay will explore how the memory of the Ilinden Uprising has served as a vehicle for nationalism, with particular attention to the ways in which the socialist regime cultivated this memory for its own purposes. It is commonly asserted that nationalism was "kept under control" in socialist Yugoslavia -- that the hard line of the central government kept nationalism "out of sight and out of mind." A closer inspection, however, reveals that in Macedonia the socialist system actually stimulated nationalist attitudes as a political expedient. While it is true that the vocabulary of this nationalism was constrained by the Communist Party, all the elements of post-socialist nationalism existed and thrived in the socialist period, so that the fall of communism, rather than bringing nationalism out of a deep freeze, merely changed the parameters for its discourse.
The Skopje-produced Macedonian Review, which began publication in 1971, provides a fascinating perspective on nationalism during the socialist period. Roughly 20 percent of the essays in the journal from 1971 to 1989 specifically mention the Ilinden Uprising, and many more address the general theme of Macedonian national identity.7 One might argue that the Macedonian Review, being an exclusively English-language publication clearly designed for foreign readers, does not present a useful view of the way the socialist elite propagandized in Macedonia itself. However, an examination of the "Writers Included in this Issue" section at the back of each number reveals that the bulk of the contributors to The Macedonian Review ranked quite highly in the socialist hierarchy of authority. University professors, bureaucrats, and politicians, all closely linked with the Party, figure prominently in the lists. Most articles, moreover, were translations or reworkings of pieces that had first appeared in Macedonian publications. It would also be naive to think that the emigr? community (which probably formed the backbone of the Review's readership) 8 was unimportant vis-?-vis "internal" Macedonian nationalism. The sizeable presence of Australians, Canadians, and Americans at a 1984 meeting of Aegean Macedonian refugees in Trnovo, suggests that Macedonians abroad maintained considerable contact with their kindred in the Balkans.9
The Ilinden Uprising
The Ilinden Uprising was not the first armed attempt to establish a degree of autonomy in the territory of Macedonia. The Uprisings of Razlog in 1875, of Kresnensko and Razlo?ko in 1878, and of Gorno-Dzumajskiin 1902 had already raised the issue. Ilinden surpassed these earlier ventures, however, in that it lasted longer and achieved more of its goals -- if only temporarily. With the founding of the Kru?evo Republic in particular, a precedent was set for Macedonian self-government which would remain a source of national inspiration long after the Uprising had been crushed.
Much of Ilinden's relative success can be attributed to the fact that it was better organized than previous uprisings. On October 23/November 4, 1893, 10 six intellectuals gathered in Salonika to make the final arrangements for a new association of patriots dedicated to the autonomy of Macedonia.Originally dubbed the Macedonian Revolutionary Committee or the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, the group would successively and alternatively be known as the Bulgarian-Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (1896-1902), the Secret Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization or the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization (1902-1905), and the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (1905 onward).11 Its purpose was to inspire "a revolutionary spirit and awareness among the population, and [to use] all possible means for a swift and timely arming of the population, as being necessary for a general and wide-spread uprising." 12
IMRO, however, was only the brightest star in a constellation of societies that claimed Macedonian autonomy as their goal, some of which were also based "internally" (i.e., within the Ottoman Empire), but more of which had roots in Bulgaria or elsewhere. Most important of these were the Vrhovists ("Supremists"), a Sofia-based network that tended to view Macedonian autonomy as a prelude to unification with Bulgaria, and which rivaled IMRO from its creation in 1895. Through a remarkable interplay of intrigues and accidents, a small internal association murkily allied with the Vrhovists united with IMRO in 1900, and following the arrest of IMRO's Central Committee in 1901, presidency of the organization fell to the Salonika-based leader of the newcomers, Ivan Garvanov. 13
At a January 1903 IMRO congress, Garvanov urged that an uprising be launched in the spring of that year, and though many delegates argued that their constituents were unprepared, in the end the congress voted unanimously for rebellion. Through the influence of Goce Delcev, an affiliate of the Central Committee who had been absent from the Salonika Congress, this date was later postponed to late summer. 14 In the intervening months Macedonia was organized into seven "revolutionary regions," which were in turn divided into districts and communes.15 Under the direction of a Main Headquarters, each region set about stockpiling food, clothing, and weapons, and systematically training IMRO supporters for partisan warfare. 16
The order to begin the Uprising went out from Main Headquarters on July 19/ August 1, -- the eve of St. Elijah's day (Ilinden) -- and managed to reach the regions without being intercepted by the Turks. "Death is a thousand times better than a life of misery," it proclaimed. "The day has been decided when the people of all Macedonia and Odrin must come out gun in hand to meet the enemy, and that day is 20 July, 1903.... Down with tyranny! Long live the people, long live freedom!" 17 The plan was to engage the Turks in guerrilla warfare, "using terrorist and anarchist tactics," in a way that would prevent superior Ottoman forces from quashing the Uprising quickly. By drawing out the conflict, it was hoped that the Great Powers would eventually be driven to intervene on Macedonia's behalf. Throughout Macedonia, rebels cut telephone and telegraph lines, destroyed bridges, and attacked Turkish garrisons. In a handful of districts (Klisura, Neveska, Smilevo, and Kru?evo) popular enthusiasm propelled the Uprising beyond the level of partisan warfare envisioned by the General Staff: Turkish garrisons and bureaucrats were driven out completely, and autochthonous, revolutionary governments were installed.18 Of these, the most important was Kru?evo.
Operations near Kru?evo began at midnight on July 20/August 2, and by 4 p.m. the next day the town rested in rebel hands.19 Thereupon Nikola Karev, together with other members of the district staff, "entered the town to an ecstatic welcome from the citizens," and declared the Kru?evo Republic. 20 Within days the new government established a hospital, bakeries, munitions workshops, a revolutionary court, and a commission for the collection of taxes. Steps were even taken to initiate a postal service and to issue special stamps. Karev created a Council of sixty of Kru?evo's "prominent citizens," with twenty drawn from each of the town's three major ethnic groups (Slavs, Vlachs, and Orthodox Albanians). 21 Out of this group, six were appointed to a "Temporary Rebel Government," again with each ethnicity represented equally. In an effort to expand the territory of the new republic, the Rebel Government issued a manifesto to the (predominantly Muslim) neighboring villages, inviting the inhabitants to "come, and join forces under the flag of autonomous Macedonia."
Dear neighbors, Turks, Albanians, Moslems, we understand your belief that the Turkish Empire is your empire and that you are not slaves since your flag bears a moon and not a cross. You will soon find that this is not so and that we are fighting, and will continue to fight, for you. . . . If you treat us as your brothers, and if you wish us well, if you think you can live with us, and if you are worthy sons of Mother Macedonia, you can help us by not combining with the enemy and fighting against us.22It was not long, however, before newly-mobilized Turkish forces arrived to put an end to Kru?evo; the duration of the Republic's existence, depending on who is telling the story, ranges from nine days to thirteen days to several weeks. 23 In mid-August, 18,000 Turkish infantry, cavalry, and artillery arrived from Prilep. The General Staff urged the rebels to retreat, "to avoid endangering the civilian population." Although a significant force under the leadership of the Vlach Pitu Guli made a last stand at Meckin Kamen, by the end of the day Kru?evo lay in Ottoman hands. Partisan struggles continued throughout Macedonia, and Klisura managed to stay in rebel hands for a full three weeks; 24 but by the end of October the Ilinden Uprising was over.
The "Second" Ilinden
It was only a matter of time before the tragedy of the Ilinden Uprising was raised to the level of myth. Socialist IMRO member Dimo Hadzi Dimov, in a pamphlet printed in 1924, prophetically wrote:
Macedonia has had its first Ilinden; it was followed by bloody days of destruction and terrible suffering. There will be a second Ilinden, in the new and safer age of the victories which are close at hand. This second Ilinden is near, it is coming. And in that day those who still remain from the first Ilinden will embrace their new leaders and rejoice in the ideal they have achieved. 25This "new and safer age" was ushered in by the rise of German fascism and the partisan efforts of Yugoslav Communists to defeat it. On the eve of World War II, the Yugoslav Communist Party was in disrepute in Macedonia. One reason was that the Party had condemned IMRO, alienating broad sections of the population who still looked to the Internal Organization as the most trustworthy exponent of their interests. More importantly, the mere fact that the CPY was Yugoslav in orientation disturbed many Macedonians who -- in light of their interwar experience -- connected Yugoslavism with Serbianization. 26 The Party sought to improve its position by appealing to Macedonian nationalism, and Ilinden played a vital role in this process.
In 1940, Tito sent Svetozar Vukmanovic-Tempo to Skopje to "investigate the situation" and bolster the Party's position. 27 A new leadership was chosen for the Macedonian branch, and on August 2, Tempo organized an Ilinden demonstration that attracted "several thousand" participants. Party membership, however, did not climb above 300. With the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, most of Vardar Macedonia was turned over to Bulgarian administration, and the CPY found itself in an even more precarious position than before. Following nearly thirty years of Serbian misrule, the Macedonian population generally regarded Bulgarian occupation forces as liberators, and those few with sympathies toward communism turned to the Bulgarian Party rather than to the Yugoslav. Tito sent communiqu?s to the Macedonian branch urging its members to conceal arms from the invaders or to join his nascent Partisan troops, but these directives were repeatedly sabotaged by the Macedonian Secretary, Metodije ?atorov. Fortunately for Tito, the Macedonians soon began to find Bulgarian rule less idyllic than they had hoped, and with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin vocally supported the CPY's position in Macedonia.28 Tito dispatched the trustworthy Macedonian Lazar Koli?evski to Skopje to form a Provisional Provincial Committee -- designed to parallel and then to usurp the wayward party of ?atorov. 29 On July 22, 1942, this Committee issued a Macedonian-language proclamation encouraging the Macedonians "to take as an example the struggle of the other Yugoslav peoples." 30 The proclamation contained an appeal to develop the traditions of the Ilinden Uprising, ending with the slogans "Long live the national liberation struggle in Macedonia! Death to Fascism -- Liberty to the people!"
A new Central Committee of the Communist Party of Macedonia, installed by Tempo in March of 1943, issued a proclamation in June of that year which promised that "with the doctrine of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, [we will] develop still further the struggle of our people for the realization of their centuries-old ideals." 31 Tempo, disturbed by the dangerous potential for complete Macedonian independence that lurked behind this statement, re-indoctrinated the CCCPM, which on August 2 issued an Ilinden Manifesto exalting the National Liberation Army and Commander Tito as the guarantors of freedom and equality for the Macedonian people. Putting the Manifesto out on Ilinden, of course, was an obvious appeal to Macedonian national sentiment. Tempo hoped that, with the intensification of partisan warfare against the Germans and Italians, "a large number of Old Ilinden fighters and political representatives" would orient themselves toward the Communist Party. 32
In 1944, with Axis power in retreat, Partisan activity in Macedonia became widespread. The first meeting of the Anti-Fascist Assembly of National Liberation of Macedonia (ANSOM) took place on August 2 (Ilinden). The Macedonian People's Republic was proclaimed a federal unit of Yugoslavia, on a par with Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia. Macedonian was decreed the official language, and national minorities were guaranteed "every right for a free national life." 33 Dimitar Vlahov, a former member of IMRO (United) 34 was named president.
Socialist Uses of Ilinden
With the Socialist Republic of Macedonia thus founded upon a symbiosis of socialism and nationalism, it remained a priority of the Communist Party to preserve a viable balance. An overly strong nationalism could challenge the Party's insistence on retaining Vardar Macedonia within the Yugoslav federation. An overly weak nationalism, on the other hand, would expose the Macedonian population to assimilatory propaganda from Bulgaria which -- after the Tito/Stalin split -- became a serious concern.
The first task of the Yugoslav socialist was to legitimize the incorporation of Vardar Macedonia within the Federal Republic. To this end, the establishment of S.R. Macedonia on August 2, 1944 was hailed as a "second Ilinden," calling to mind the vision of Dimo Hadzi Dimov. Embedded within this poetic and prophetic symbolism was an unmistakable allusion to the New Testament concept of a First and Second Coming of Christ. The first Ilinden, of course, represented the First Coming, and ended with the crucifixion of the Macedonian nation -- "Macedonia's Golgotha." 35 There followed a long period of persecution of the "saints of 1903,"36 which culminated in the blood and fire of the Second World War (the Apocalypse) and the second Ilinden (the Second Coming). Federal Yugoslavia, in other words, was the Kingdom come.
The millenarianism that emerged from this conception of Macedonian history relied on Ilinden as its gospel -- its founding myth. Entailed within this myth were "the ideals of Ilinden," repeatedly invoked in order to justify the socialist status quo and to encourage the people to support it.
An atmospheric presence in Macedonian Review articles is the concept of "the masses." Historian Hristo Andonov-Poljanski, in "Ilinden 1903," writes that "the masses [around Kru?evo] were enormously exploited both economically and politically. The broad popular masses were those who suffered most." 37 What the difference may be between "the masses" and "the broad popular masses" we can only imagine, let alone how a country with less than two million people can really be said to have "masses." As cross-culturalist Heather Nehring reminds us, however, repetition of this kind is frequently a signal that the point is an important one for the speaker, and we can only conclude that Andonov-Poljanski is at pains to emphasize the role of class conflict in early twentieth century Macedonia.38 "The broad Macedonian popular masses," he writes, "with an assistance of the representatives of the nationalities in Macedonia, stood firm defending their freedom and through the insurgent conflagration, looked for their path to free existence and emancipation. The popular masses were the spiritens movens of the Uprising and they in it, proved their revolutionary, self-initiative and mass fighting spirit, that is why the Uprising from its very beginning had a popular character. It was a typical popular uprising."39
Andonov-Poljanski, along with many other Review authors, interprets the Ilinden Uprising as a "bourgeois-democratic" revolution. They generally agree that this type of revolution "was the most suitable at the given moment, and was a legitimate phase in the national and social liberation of the Macedonian people," 40 but they are careful to maintain a certain distance from the bourgeoisie, emphasizing that the "masses" were the motive force behind the Uprising. "It was exactly through the act of revolution," Andonov-Poljanski insists, "that the conscious initiative of the broad popular masses...found its full expression, which had nothing in common with the provocations that started the uprising." 41 Krste Bitoski (also a historian) even goes so far as to criticize the central command of the IMRO-led Uprising for not trusting the people enough.42
A popular theme of Review contributors was to discuss the socialist activities of such renowned figures of the Uprising as Goce Delcev and Nikola Karev. 43 In an article on Goce Delcev, for example, Macedonian National Assembly President Nikola Mincev notes that Delcev's innovations in arms procurement attracted the attention of Lenin, and Mincev praises Delcev for his ability to "revolutionize the masses with warmth and enthusiasm."44 But the real accolades of socialist writers went to Nikola Karev, founder of the Kru?evo Republic. Historian Orde Ivanovski explains that Karev had worked since 1893 for the inclusion of socialists in IMRO, and that he himself attended the First Socialist Conference in 1900. "The socialist ideas which Karev preached to the workers and suppressed masses," moreover, "were not limited to a pure class war, but were related to the Macedonian reality." Ivanovski emphasizes that Karev, whose ideas "were quite correct for the period," accepted the exigency of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and was therefore able to "affect" the national liberation struggle "to great purpose." 45 Both Delcev and Karev, incidentally, opposed the decision of the Salonika Congress to begin the Uprising in 1903, arguing that "the masses were not yet properly organized." 46 Mincev and Ivanovski imply that if IMRO had listened to these men -- i.e., if it had followed a "correct approach towards the masses,"47 -- the Uprising would not have failed.
The Kru?evo Republic itself was frequently compared to that classic symbol of revolutionary Marxism, the Paris Commune. In a short sketch, historian Nikola Sotirovski notes that although "there is no evidence to prove that the Macedonian revolutionaries were directly influenced by the ideas and experiences of the Paris Commune.... the socialist Nikola Karev and his Krushevo Republic must have been influenced" by them.48 To "prove" his theory, Sotirovski presents the similarity between the Commune's governmental structure and that of Kru?evo. In particular, he points to the Commune council as "a union of commissions which perform[ed] their duties together, not a parliament in which everyone want[ed] to talk." The Kru?evo Council of Sixty with its six commissions, Sotirovski argues, acted in the same role. Unique for Kru?evo, of course, was the way in which the Council and commissionerships were divided equally among the three different nationalities, in a fashion destined to serve as a model for the Balkans in the same way that the Paris Commune served as a model for the world. Ljuben Lape corroborates Sotirovski's interpretation, and adds the important insight that Kru?evo's national egalitarianism was the result of the government's "correct approach towards the masses."
Thus, in a variety of ways, socialist propagandists sought to legitimize the CPY by arguing the similarity and even identity of its programs with something the Macedonians already held dear; at the same time, Macedonian history was carefully fitted into the "correct" Marxist-Leninist mold.
Legitimizing Yugoslav Federalism
The CPY had secured its position in Vardar Macedonia by recognizing Macedonian nationality and satisfying long-standing Macedonian demands for regional autonomy. A severe challenge to this arrangement was the pre-war affinity of Macedonians -- particularly IMRO-ists -- for Bulgaria,49 and continuing propaganda from Sofia which insisted that "Macedonians" were really unfortunate Bulgarians enslaved by Yugoslavia.
Immediately following the war, when Bulgaria was in a weak political position with respect to Yugoslavia, the CPB accepted the CPY position on Macedonia to the point of an agreement that provided for the eventual unification of Vardar and Pirin Macedonia within the federal structure of Yugoslavia. Teachers, linguists, journalists, and even actors50 poured into the Pirin region from Yugoslavia, promoting Macedonian language and culture and forging personal ties across the border. The Tito/Cominform split of 1948, however, destroyed this cooperative arrangement, and Bulgaria launched a vigorous propaganda campaign arguing that Macedonians were, in fact, Bulgarians, and that the people of Vardar Macedonia should not follow Tito's wayward path. Despite a brief rapprochement between 1955 and 1958, it remained the policy of communist Bulgaria to deny the legitimacy of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia.
Contributors to The Macedonian Review addressed the issue by presenting Macedonian history (and particularly the Ilinden Uprising) in such a way that it emphasized the unity and indivisibility of the Macedonian nation (not to mention its existence), and downplayed the ties of early IMRO members with Bulgaria. It must be remembered that the nationalist conception of Macedonia was geographic as well as ethnic, so that the Ilinden Uprising had been launched not only where ethnic Macedonians happened to live, but throughout the whole territory from Salonika to Skopje. Hence the importance of the Kru?evo Republic, which "unified all the suppressed and exploited national groups, without reference to religious and national factors, into a single revolutionary front." 51 Of course, the Macedonian nation was to be the cornerstone of a "unified" Macedonia, and the Rebel Government's program "for directing the national cause" was the concrete form by which "the unity of the masses" was symbolized.52 "The greatness of this turning point," in fact, "lies in the pure national character of the uprising which expressed the desire of the people for liberty and for the creation of their own state."53
Arguments which rested on historical ties between Bulgaria and Macedonia were countered by the position that these "ties" were actually part of a plot by "the neighboring bourgeois monarchy" 54 to subvert the Macedonian national awakening - to quash "the desire of the people for liberty." In this "counter-revolutionary" and "quixotic" quest, 55 Bulgarian mercantile companies were formed "to hinder and paralyze us," and the Bulgarian Exarchate undertook an evolutionary program "for the gradual conversion of Macedonian people into Bulgarians."56 Most nefarious of all, however, were Bulgarian attempts to undermine the Macedonian revolution by filling IMRO with spies loyal to Sofia. According to Andonov-Poljanski, who focuses on these Vrhovist sympathizers, their "counter-revolutionary intents were particularly concealed under the mask of the forced uprisings in order to provoke an outer intervention."57 Needless to say, the Vrhovists were blamed for the failure of the Ilinden Uprising, leaving Bulgaria implicated as well. Interpreting the Salonika Congress of 1903, Andonov-Poljanski writes that
according to I. Garvanov the assistance of Bulgaria was presumed... The majority of the delegates voted in [his] favour... and it was decided to start the uprising in the spring of 1903.Thus, despite Goce Delcev's eventual success in persuading the Central Committee to postpone the Uprising, Ilinden was doomed from the beginning. Help from Bulgaria, in fact, never came. The failure of the Uprising was therefore no fault of the good Macedonians; all blame rested on the shoulders of "evil" foreigners.
This forced decision for an uprising was actually a provocative action of Vrhovism. It was strictly directed against the independent development of the Macedonian national-liberation movement. Therefore, this evil solution was strongly condemned by the most distinguished members of the Internal Organisation and the Macedonian socialists as well.58
Fortunately, the "Golgotha" brought on by the Uprising's betrayal was superseded by the "Second Coming," when "Macedonians in a joint effort with the other Yugoslav nations finally won their freedom."58 Tragically, though, "freedom came to only part of the enslaved fatherland." It has already been mentioned that, immediately following World War II, there was talk of an eventual political unification of Pirin and Vardar Macedonia within the framework of Yugoslavia. The specific incident which sparked this unprecedented display of socialist good will was a speech delivered by Koli?evski to the First Congress of the People's Front of Macedonia, on August 2, 1946:
The strivings of our people from Pirin Macedonia for union with the Macedonian People's Republic are a clear fact.... [However] we are convinced that the responsible factors...will make it possible for our people in Pirin Macedonia to have those conditions of free national development which the Bulgarian national minority enjoys in Yugoslavia. To raise the question of union means common provocation, and is against the independence and interests of the Macedonian people.60Once again, the delivery of this speech on Ilinden was not coincidental, and served to emblazon the issue in the Macedonian mind as well as the Bulgarian. The effect was such that, within days, the Tenth Plenum of the CPB declared itself in favor of Macedonian unification, and agreements between Tito and Dimitrov were signed the next year.61 The Tito/Stalin split, of course, put an end to these plans. The CPY, realizing that its point was lost, shifted to a focus on human rights for the Macedonian minority in Pirin -- a minority which in 1956 Bulgaria ceased to recognize. The Macedonian Review took up the cause with repeated hues and cries about the plight of the Pirin Macedonians. The very first issue contains a review of a book whose "author points out to our neighbors, in a highly civilized way, that they have not chosen the most honest way towards the solution of the Macedonian question." 62 The papers of a UN seminar on minorities, held at Ohrid in 1974, were translated and published by the Review in 1977, and although the book does not directly broach the topic of Macedonian minorities abroad, there are pointed allusions. 63
Macedonian minorities also existed in Greece and Albania, and the Review pays no less attention to them than to Bulgaria. The Greek situation was dealt with in a particularly bitter fashion, due to the large number of Slavs who had fled during the Greek Civil War (1946-1949).64 The book review quoted above describes Greek policy as one of "denationalization and assimilation, such as has no precedent even during the darkest period of African colonialism." 65 More reserve is afforded to Albania, where Macedonians were allowed such rights as the use of their own language in elementary schools, but concern was expressed that "Albanian authorities do not recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority publicly and, therefore, this minority cannot develop in the cultural or educational field." 66
In addition to requiring a policy on external Macedonian minorities, the assertion of Macedonian national autonomy within the Yugoslav context also demanded a stable internal situation. The goal was to ensure that the Macedonians -- like the Croats, Slovenes and Serbs -- had their own national state, but without alienating members of other (potentially secessionist) nationalities residing in Macedonia. To this end, Macedonian socialists extolled IMRO and the Kru?evo Republic as native examples of cross-cultural cooperation and brotherhood.
"Thanks to the justness of its principles," writes Lape, "[the IMRO ensconced at Kru?evo] took in all dissidents regardless of nationality."67 IMRO had always admitted members of any nationality or faith, of course, and Goce Delcev had declared that the world could be understood "only as a field of cultural [as opposed to military] competition among nations."68 With the creation of the Kru?evo Republic, however, a truly unique state of inter-ethnic cooperation was achieved. "Nowhere else in the Balkans," Lape says, "was the point so early and so justly raised... that the heterogeneous mass of people belonging to different faiths have an equal right to determine their own fate." 69
The distribution of power equally among the major nationalities of the Kru?evo Republic was a subtle yet important arrogation of the principle of national equality as opposed to civic equality. It was not through individual citizenship in the community that members of the "heterogeneous mass" asserted their rights, it was through their national apparatus. Thus Dimo Hadzi Dimov speaks of Kru?evo -- a town of less than 15,000 people -- as a "magnificent federation."70
"In that concrete political moment," says Andonov-Poljanski, "the Macedonian people and the Minorities in Macedonia as its natural allies, took the course of an autochthonous revolution." 71 This statement makes it quite clear that the "equal rights" of ethnic groups did not actually translate into equal position within the Republic. The Uprising, after all, was a "national cause" which aimed at the establishment of "a separate Macedonian state." 72 National minorities, in other words, would share equal rights with the majority in the national state of that majority. Unspoken was the fact that this arrangement would render the position of the majority within the "federation" a dominant, and potentially abusive one.
As we have seen, nationalism played a critical role in the establishment and maintenance of Macedonian socialism. But this is not to say that a dramatic shift in the nationalist tenor did not indeed begin in the late 1980s. In fact, a clear break can be seen in the Macedonian Review beginning with the first issue of 1989. Articles dealing with history, language and minorities abroad had always been standard fare, but in 1989 they began to lose the socialist veneer which had previously coated them, exposing the stark nationalism beneath. Some articles clearly "go off the deep end;" Boris Vi?inski, for example, cites a Vatican document in which Alexander the Great supposedly bequeathed a portion of his lands to the Slavs,73 and Radivoje Pesic argues that, based on archaeological evidence, the poet Homer must have spoken a Slavonic dialect. 74 An ever-present centerpiece in these most recent ruminations, however, is the Ilinden Uprising.
Aharon Assa's "The Ilinden Uprising," in a 1989 issue dedicated to IMRO, begins with a global perspective. "The Macedonian nation's Ilinden Uprising was a lesson for the history of man as a whole," he avers, "a universal epic of fearless revolutionary struggle." 75 This is millenarianism of a kind which was absent from analyses of Ilinden in previous Review volumes, which focused only on the millennial importance of Ilinden within the context of the Balkan Peninsula. Assa goes on to discuss the "Salonika assassinations" -- a series of bombings perpetrated by Macedonian anarchists in the spring of 1903, which had been a severe challenge to international support of Macedonian independence.
These desperate anarchists, who operated with the premeditated desire to kill people, thereby arousing public opinion in the world and drawing its attention to the Macedonian question, were known by the unpretentious name of "Gemidzii" (Boatmen).... The "Boatmen" carried out their devilish terrorist plan with wonderful precision and self-sacrifice on the 29th of April, 1903.... Although the reverberations of the Salonika attacks merge with the great, popular revolutionary tide of Ilinden where Macedonian history is concerned, they did not, in fact, lead to any concrete political results whatsoever. However, their moral quality was great.76Assa, a Jewish Macedonian living in Israel, wraps up his article by focusing on the role of Jews in the Ilinden Uprising. He notes that "anti-Semitic poison never penetrated the hearts of the Macedonians,"77 and claims that, even during the Nazi occupation, Macedonians protected the Jews. 78 One cannot help wondering if there is a certain usage of the word's creative power here, in the hopes that by reminding the Macedonians that they have always had a commendable relationship with the Jews, anti-Semitism will not be a part of the nationalism which he otherwise espouses.
Ivan Katardziev's "I.M.O.R.O.," divided among two issues in 1990, provides a contemporary view of IMRO's history from its founding in 1893 to the present. The author focuses on demonstrating the eternal value of Ilinden for Macedonian consciousness, and the importance of IMRO as the vehicle of that consciousness:
The Ilinden Uprising is the great achievement of the "small" Macedonian people. It is an example of a people's assault on the stars, an example of self-sacrifice for the sake of freedom and the right to self determination, carried out in spite of the joint actions of their adversaries.... This uprising played a very significant role in the development of the Macedonian people's awareness of their unity throughout the whole territory of Macedonia and of their spirit of oneness both there, in the Balkans, and wherever else the diaspora might take them to. The Republic born of this Uprising reflected most substantially the real goals of the Macedonian people's revolution which was organized and led by the Internal Macedonian-Odrin Revolutionary Organization. Its greatness established moral values aimed at for ever after both by the people at that time and, after them, by their descendants. 79In examining the evolution of IMRO following the Ilinden Uprising, Katardziev (unlike many writers in socialist times) discusses at length some of the more unsavory doings of the organization. He mentions, for example, that both the right and left wings of IMRO (IMRO and IMRO-United) became fascist during the late twenties, and that their clash rendered Pirin Macedonia "a land of terror." 80 Despite describing this transformation as a "degeneration," however, Katardziev insists that "the Organization... never lost its Macedonian, independent, national and political course.... On the contrary, despite all the abuse, the authority of the Uprising and the Republic grew with the passage of time, the consciousness of the blood shed for the sake of liberation and for the right to self-organization became ever clearer. The Uprising and, even more so, its very name, had turned into a myth."81
The power of this myth is revealed by its widespread invocation throughout the contemporary Macedonian scene. Let us take IMRO as an example. When given the freedom to express themselves politically outside the structures of the Communist Party, thousands of Macedonians turned to the reincarnation of IMRO (the Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity) which claimed to base its platform on "the ideals of Ilinden." 82 Though it has renounced violence, this new IMRO has called for the unification of Macedonia along geographic lines, and even proposed holding its 1991 party congress in Salonika. Since 1993 its support has been questionable, but it has a firm base in the districts of Bitola and Prilep (the former being the site of the Kru?evo Republic) and is increasingly attractive to Macedonians dissatisfied with Albanian demands for self-rule.83 Such is the power of the IMRO name, moreover, that when IMRO-DPMNU members decided to found a new party (in protest of IMRO-DPMNU's affiliation with Serbian nationalists) they called it the IMRO-Democratic Party. Why, indeed, is this myth so powerful?
The reason is that, in departing from socialism, the Macedonians (like the Czechs, Estonians and others) consciously appealed to a prior paradigm. Unlike the Czechs, however, the Macedonians have no memory of a stable and prosperous "First Republic"; the only real, non-socialist, Macedonian paradigm exists in the memory of IMRO, the Ilinden Uprising, and the Kru?evo Republic. Furthermore, socialism did not expunge the nationalist tradition in Macedonia in the same way that Czech socialism uprooted the traditions of the First Republic. As Katherine Verdery notes, Yugoslav socialism "destroyed all other bases for political organization while constitutionally enshrining the national basis." 84 Thus the memory of the prior paradigm is not the same memory that existed in 1940, but one which has been molded and transformed by forty-five years of socialist manipulation. One cannot easily discern where the seam that connects nationalism and socialism lies; it is a viable argument that the two are really different sides of the same coin. 85
There is concern in Macedonia today that, because Macedonia is a small nation, its culture and identity will somehow be drowned in the currents of "big Europe." 86 The imbroglio caused by Greek refusal to recognize Macedonia has posed a severe test to Macedonian's faith in the outside world. The situation cannot avoid leading some individuals to formulate Macedonia's position today in the same way that Orde Ivanovski views the pre-war period:
Macedonia became an object of the aspirations of the great powers and small Balkan states in the colonial and assimilatory competition for the division of the Turkish inheritance on the Balkans. They all began to exploit the Macedonian question as a means by which to further their own plans for taking over the area. In this they ignored the efforts of the Macedonian people directed towards their liberation and political and national individuality. 87An old IMRO representative, Gjorce Petrov, once warned that "only with our own strengths will what we gain be securely achieved,"88 and in light of Macedonia's international isolation, repetition of these words by the new IMRO finds receptive listeners. Fears of isolation or assimilation are a major reason behind the desire for Macedonian unity; there is, after all, safety in numbers.
This desire for unity works in a multitude of ways. As Verdery notes, it can be both inclusive, seeking the gathering of all Macedonians into a common state, and exclusive, desiring the internal homogeneity and purity of the nation. 89 Already the strength of Albanian national sentiment in western Macedonia has conflicted with a Macedonian desire "to ensure the perpetuation of their national identity and the state in which they constitute a majority population;" 90 ethnic Macedonians in these areas are among the most likely to vote for nationalist parties like IMRO-DPMNU. 91 Fortunately, however, the Macedonian nationalist tradition as it derives from "the ideals of Ilinden" should, in theory, be tolerant of other nationalities and supportive of their equal rights. This indeed seems to be the case -- Macedonia has received EU commendation for her treatment of minorities,92 and that Macedonian treatment of the Romanies has been hailed as the best in the Balkans. 93 In speaking of the media (a plausible yardstick of attitudes among intellectuals), Radio Free Europe analyst Duncan Perry concludes that "rather than stress differences, [the Macedonian media] appear to have emphasized common problems among the people of the republic. Thus, although the media are at times biased, in general responsible reporting has contributed to a reduction in ethnic stress." 94
It should be remembered that the socialist era cannot be ignored when seeking to explain the force of nationalism in Macedonia today. The period from 1945 to 1995 is actually quite continuous with respect to the fundamental desires which result in nationalism; 1989 merely changed the means of satisfying that desire. A comparison with the economic sphere is enlightening: under socialism, the market was limited, so people became accustomed to having many unfulfilled desires (although they may have continued to voice them discreetly). In 1989 the markets were opened, so that people now have the opportunity to satisfy far more of their desires than was previously possible.95 A similar dynamic is at work in the realm of ideas. Nationalist desire has existed in Macedonia ever since the late nineteenth century; it is only the markets for its fulfillment that have changed.
The desire which results in nationalism is often vague and not easily
defined, but one feature that stands out is the desire for unity. Whether
it be in the form of a united Macedonia, or in a "Macedonia for the Macedonians,"
the nationalists in both socialist and post-socialist Macedonia have sought
oneness. Within the Macedonian context, moreover, the satisfaction of this
desire has been identified with institutionalization of the unity. The
word "people" becomes a singular rather than a plural noun. It is
therefore not surprising that the same constitutional logic which enshrined
national differences in socialist Yugoslavia should be repeated in independent
Macedonia. Until the desire which results in nationalism can be satisfied
through civic, rather than institutional, means, minorities will continue
to feel excluded, and Macedonians will continue to feel threatened.
[Back to Index]
Note 1: See, for example, Duncan Perry, "Macedonia: A Balkan Problem and a European Dilemma," RFE/RL Research Report, June 19, 1992, 35-45; Stefan Troebst, "Macedonia: Powder Keg Defused?," RFE/RL Research Report, January 28, 1994, 33-41; and Duncan Perry, "Republic of Macedonia: On the Road to Stability -- or Destruction?," Transition, August 25, 1995, 40-48. Back.
Note 2: The title "Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization" (Vnatre?na Makedonska revolucioerna organizacija) was actually not adopted officially until 1905 -- prior to that time at least half a dozen different names were used. Though I may be faulted for inaccuracy, for simplicity's sake I have chosen to employ IMRO throughout this essay rather than the Macedonian VMRO. This is in keeping with the practice of most English-language historians writing on the subject. (See Duncan Perry, The Politics of Terror: The Macedonian Revolutionary Movements, 1893-1903 [Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1988], 40-41, 221 n. 10.) Back.
Note 3: It is a singular characteristic of Balkan studies that use of the word "Macedonian" to describe a nationality must be explained. I do not follow Kofos, who insists on calling the Slavic inhabitants of Macedonia "Slav `Macedonians'" -- quotation marks being a classic signal of distance and disdain. It is generally agreed among more disinterested writers (cf. Palmer, King and Glenny) that prior to 1945, though the Slavic inhabitants of Macedonia may have identified with Greece or Bulgaria, they were subtly distinct, in language and regional attachment if nothing else. Accepting this understanding, I will refer to the Slavic inhabitants of Macedonia as Macedonians throughout this essay. Back.
Note 4: "Democratic Party of Macedonian National Unity" (Demokratska partija na Makedonsko nacionalno edinstvo). Back.
Note 5: Ilinden and Ilinden-IMRO Independent. See Theodore Zang, Jr. "Destroying Ethnic Identity: Selective Persecution of Macedonians in Bulgaria," News from Helsinki Watch , February 12, 1991. Reprinted in The Macedonian Review 21, nos. 1-2 (1991), 70-88. Back.
Note 6: Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia. Quoted in Basil Kondis, Kyriakos Kentrotis, Spyridon Sfetas, and Yiannis Stefanidis, eds., Resurgent Irredentism: Documents on Skopje `Macedonian' Nationalist Aspirations, 1934-1992 (Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1993), 65. Back.
Note 7: The actual number, from 1971 to 1989, is 18.7 percent. High points were reached in 1973 and 1984, with 30 percent of each volume's articles dealing with Ilinden, and the low point was in 1980, with only 3.4 percent of the essays discussing the uprising. A roughly equivalent percentage of articles (17.9 percent) deals with IMRO; the high point was 1984 (40.0 percent) and the low was 1980 (3.4 percent). Back.
Note 8: See Visinski "Macedonia's Truth," Macedonian Review 2, No. 2 (1972), 141-143; and "Twenty Years of Macedonian Review" 20, no. 1 (1990), 5-6 for discussions of the Review's mission and audience. Also useful are two reviews of the journal by Simo Mladenovski in Glasnik 18, nos. 1 and 2 (1974), 307, 326. Back.
Note 9: Kole Mangov, "The Fourth United Lerin Meeting," Macedonian Review 14, no. 3 (1984), 345. Back.
Note 10: At the time of the Uprising, the Ottoman Empire had not yet adopted the Gregorian calendar. The convention used in this essay is to provide the Julian date first and the Gregorian second. There is, incidentally, some confusion about this date, with a minority of primary sources suggesting that the meeting occurred a month or two later. October 23 is, however, the most commonly accepted date. (See Perry, The Politics of Terror, 221 n. 5.) Back.
Note 11: . Ibid., 40-41. Back.
Note 12: From the IMRO Constitution of 1896, quoted in Ivan Katardziev, "I.M.O.R.O.," Part 1, Macedonian Review 20, nos. 1-2 (1990), 41. See also Evangelos Kofos, Nationalism and Communism in Macedonia (Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies, 1964), 25. Back.
Note 13: Perry, The Politics of Terror, 89-100. Back.
Note 14: Ibid., 122-23, 125-127. Back.
Note 15: Stojan Pribicevic, "Macedonia, Its People and History," excerpted from Macedonia, Its People and History (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982), Macedonian Review 12, no. 3 (1982), 288. Back.
Note 16: See Ljuben Lape, "The Krushevo Republic," Macedonian Review 3, no. 1 (1973), 23. Back.
Note 17: Quoted in Krste Bitoski, "The Ilinden Uprising," Macedonian Review 3, no. 1 (1973), 14. The insurrection in Adrianople (Odrin), known as the "Preobrazenski (`Resurrection Day') Uprising," did not actually begin until July 24/August 6, 1903. (Perry, The Politics of Terror, 134.) Back.
Note 18: Ibid., 137. Back.
Note 19: Lape, 24. Back.
Note 20: Orde Ivanovski, "Nikola Karev -- Organizer of the Kru?evo Republic," Macedonian Review 1, no. 2 (1971), 179. Back.
Note 21: Vlachs, incidentally, comprised about two thirds of the town's population. (Perry, The Politics of Terror, 137.) Back.
Note 22: Quoted in Orde Ivanovski, 180. Back.
Note 23: See Ivanovski, 181; Aleksandar Hristov, "From the Theory of Autonomy to the Creation of the S.R. of Macedonia (1893-1971)," Macedonian Review 1, no. 2 (1971), 159; and Boris Visinski "The Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Ilinden," Macedonian Review 8, no. 2 (1978), 117. Duncan Perry uses a figure of ten days (The Politics of Terror, 137). Back.
Note 24: Lape, 25. Back.
Note 25: Dimo Hadzi Dimov, "The Historical Importance of the Ilinden Uprising," August 1924. Quoted in Lape, 29. Back.
Note 26: See Andrew Rossos, "The British Foreign Office and Macedonian National Identity, 1918-1941," Slavic Review 53, no. 2 (Summer 1994), 369-394. Back.
Note 27: Stephen Palmer and Robert King, Yugoslav Communism and the Macedonian Question (Hamden, Conn.: The Shoe String Press, 1971), 53. Back.
Note 28: Ibid., 67. Back.
Note 29: Koli?evski, incidentally, would later become an occasional contributor to the Review. Back.
Note 30: Istorijski archiv, Vol. 7, Makedonija u narodnooslobodilackom ratu I narodnoj revoluciji 1941-1944, Jovan Marjanovic, ed. (Belgrade: 1951), 135-140. Quoted in Palmer and King, 70. The status of Macedonian in 1945 as an independent language or as a dialect of Bulgarian is debatable, but what is important here is that the proclamation was printed in it, rather than in standard Bulgarian or Serbo-Croatian. Back.
Note 31: Ibid., 222-227. Quoted in Palmer and King, 79. Back.
Note 32: Ibid., 229-245. Quoted in Palmer and King, 80. Back.
Note 33: Ibid., 340-345. Quoted in Palmer and King, 111. Back.
Note 34: The left wing of IMRO, disturbed by the organization's increasing domination by Vrhovists, had split off on its own in 1919 under the name "Temporary representative of the former Macedonian Revolutionary Organization." In 1925 this had been changed to the "Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (United)." (Ivan Katardziev, "I.M.O.R.O.," Part. 2, Macedonian Review 20, no. 3 , 156-157.) Back.
Note 35: Orde Ivanovski, 176. Back.
Note 36: Hadzi Dimov, 133. Back.
Note 37: Hristo Andonov-Poljanski, "Ilinden 1903," Macedonian Review 13, no. 3 (1983), 246. Back.
Note 38: Heather Nehring, "Working in the Czech Republic: Exploring Interaction and Communication" (thesis, University of Texas at El Paso, 1995), 91. Back.
Note 39: Andonov-Poljanski, 247. Back.
Note 40: Orde Ivanovski, 177. Back.
Note 41: Andonov-Poljanski, 246. Emphasis added. Back.
Note 42: Bitoski, 19. Back.
Note 43: Although Goce Delcev was killed before the start of the Uprising (on April 24/May 6, 1903), he remained a central figure of the insurrection for having secured its postponement and in his diligent efforts to prepare for it. Back.
Note 44: Nikola Mincev, "The Ideals of Goce Delcev Are Built into the Macedonian Reality of Today," Macedonian Review 2, no. 2 (1972), 150, 148. Back.
Note 45: Orde Ivanovski, 177. Back.
Note 46: Lape, 23. Back.
Note 47: Ibid., 25. Back.
Note 48: Nikola Sotirovski, "The Paris Commune and the Krushevo Republic," Macedonian Review 11, no. 3 (1981), 266-267. Emphasis added. Back.
Note 49: A document published by the Central Committee of the Macedonian Political Organization of the U.S.A. and Canada, in 1927, proclaims for example that "the language of the Macedonian Slavs is Bulgarian." The Macedonian Slavs: Their National Character and Struggles (Indianapolis, Indiana: Central Committee of the Macedonian Political Organization of the U.S.A. and Canada, 1927), 5. Back.
Note 50: See Ivan Ivanovski, "The Theatre of National Pride," Macedonian Review 19, no. 1 (1989), 39-41. Back.
Note 51: Orde Ivanovski, 178. Back.
Note 52: Ibid, 179. Back.
Note 53: Andonov-Poljanski, 241. Emphasis added. Back.
Note 54: Aleksandar Trajanovski, "The Bulgarian Exarchate and the Macedonian National Liberation Movement," translated by Blagoj Stojckovski, Macedonian Review 22, no. 1 (1992), 44.< Back.
Note 55: Andonov-Poljanski, 242. Back.
Note 56: Aleksandar Trajanovski, "The Bulgarian Principality, the Exarchate and the 1903 Rebellion," Macedonian Review 10, no. 1 (1980), 39. Back.
Note 57: Andonov-Poljanski, 244. Back.
Note 58: Ibid., 245. Note that Andonov-Poljanski writes "majority," when actually the decision of the congress was unanimous. Back.
Note 59: Visinski "Petar Pop Arsov's Consistency," Macedonian Review 11, no. 1 (1981), 9. Back.
Note 60: Lazar Mojsov, Bulgarska Radnicka partija, 223-224. Quoted in Palmer and King, 123-124. Emphasis added. Back.
Note 61: Palmer and King, 124. Back.
Note 62: "Anti-Macedonian Diplomatic Game, by Hristo Andonovski," Macedonian Review 1, no. 1 (1971), 142. Back.
Note 63: The Ohrid Seminar on Minorities, Boris Vi?inski, ed. (Skopje: Macedonian Review Editions, 1977). Back.
Note 64: Duncan Perry, "Macedonia: A Balkan Problem and a European Dilemma," 36. Back.
Note 65: "Anti-Macedonian Diplomatic Game," 142. Back.
Note 66: Hristo Andonovski, "The Macedonians in Albania," Macedonian Review 7, no. 1 (1977), 90. Back.
Note 67: Lape, 22. Back.
Note 68: Quoted in Mincev,147 Back.
Note 69: Lape, 25.. Back.
Note 70: Quoted in Andonov-Poljanski, 248. Back.
Note 71:Ibid., 246. Emphasis added Back.
Note 72: Orde Ivanovski, 179-180. Emphasis added. Back.
Note 73: Visinski, "The Gratitude of Alexander the Great to the Slavs," trans. Mirka Misic Macedonian Review 21, no. 3 (1991), 127-130. Back.
Note 74: Radivoje Pesic, "On the Scent of Slavic Autochthony in the Balkans," Macedonian Review 19, nos. 2-3 (1989), 115-116. Back.
Note 75: Aharon Assa, "The Ilinden Uprising," Macedonian Review 19, no. 1 (1989), 5 Back.
Note 76: Ibid., 7. Emphasis added.. Back.
Note 77: Ibid., 11. Back.
Note 78: Ibid., 19. Back.
Note 79: Katardziev, 144-145. Back.
Note 80: Ibid., 160. Back.
Note 81: Ibid., 156. Back.
Note 82: Kondis et al., 63. Back.
Note 83: Perry, "Politics in the Republic of Macedonia: Issues and Parties," RFE/RL Research Report, June 4, 1993, 34 Back.
Note 84: Katherine Verdery, "Nationalism and National Sentiment in Post-socialist Romania," Slavic Review 52, no. 2 (Summer 1993), 182.. Back.
Note 85: See Jan Urban, "Nationalism as a Totalitarian Ideology," Social Research 58, no. 4 (Winter 1991), 775-779 Back.
Note 86: See Mateja Matevski, "Big Europe and the Small Nations: Hopes, Dilemmas, Bitterness," trans. Ljubica Arsovska, Macedonian Review 22, no. 3 (1992), 243-246. Back.
Note 87: Ivanovski, 176. Back.
Note 88: Quoted in Trajanovski, 39. Back.
Note 89: Verdery, 181. Back.
Note 90: Perry, "The Media: Republic of Macedonia," RFE/RL Research Report, October 2, 1992, 46. Back.
Note 91: See Verdery, 189. A characteristic peculiar to Macedonia (and a potentially stabilizing one) is that the country has two Albanian parties, so that political domination is not likely to be as overpowering as it would if there were only one party for which Albanians voted en bloc. Back.
Note 92: Wolf Oschlies, "Recognized without Recognition," translated by Ljubica Arsovska, Macedonian Review 22, no. 2 (1992), 140. Back.
Note 93: Hugh Poulton, "The Roma in Macedonia: A Balkan Success Story?" RFE/RL Research Report, May 7, 1993, 42. Back.
Note 94: Perry, "The Media: Republic of Macedonia," 46. Back.
Note 95: My thanks to Miroslava Holubov?, who suggested this analogy. Back.